1. Rigorous or excessive adherence to recognized forms, as in religion or art.
2. An instance of rigorous or excessive adherence to recognized forms.
3. A method of aesthetic analysis that emphasizes structural elements and artistic techniques rather than content, especially in literary works.
formal·ist adj. & n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.